An ordained Cumberland minister tells us, “The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is a Presbyterian body formed during the Great Revival of 1800. The revival caused disagreement within the Presbyterian Church (USA) both over the mechanics of the revival and over allowances the pro-revival faction was willing to make in order to secure ministers for its rapidly expanding following. These presbyteries, Cumberland in particular, believed the revival to be an extraordinary circumstance, which allowed for exceptions to both educational requirements for ordination and the required subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The faction opposed to the revival dominated. This anti-revival faction took steps to curtail the activities of the revival oriented Presbyteries, who disagreed with several tenents, including the requirement that in order to be ordained, candidates were required to go through a “classical education” in a college, then go to seminary back east in Pennsylvania or other approved seminaries – or even in Scotland, rather than obtain theological education in “saddleback schools,” or through being taught by ordained ministers, etc.. These disaffected Presbyterian ministers did not intend to found an independent Presbyterian body”. However unintended, the Cumberland faction created this new faction of the Presbyterian faith and Cumberland Presbyterian congregations are now located in several countries. There are primarily located in the American South, with strong concentrations in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, southern Illinois, Arkansas, and Texas.
The first Cumberland Presbyterian minister to permanently settle in Georgia was the Rev. Samuel Houston Henry who organized his first church in 1851. The history states that two years later, he formed another church just south of Calhoun in Gordon County, which was the beginning of Liberty Cumberland. By this time many Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian were beginning to populate the landscape of northwest Georgia. The Presbyterian Church had organized missions to the Cherokees in Floyd County as early as 1832. They now began to use many of the same recruiting techniques as the Baptists and Methodists, including camp meetings and campgrounds, that attracted thousands of people from the surrounding communities. Some of these campgrounds evolved into permanent churches. Liberty was the second such Cumberland church established in Georgia. The Liberty church, also known as the White Church, soon became a member of the Georgia Presbytery. We are told these early families came to this part of northwest Georgia from Tennessee and North Carolina and settled in the upper reaches of Springtown Valley, a few miles south of Calhoun. In October of 1859, the congregation purchesed one acre of land for one dollar from V. H. Cain to erect a meeting house. Additional land was secured in 1860.
There is an interesting incident that happened during the Civil War, according to the local history. The Rev. Allison Templeton was conducting a spring revival service and a dozen or so Confederate soldiers came into the service and took a seat. The service was quietly progressing until “a company of blue coats road up and entered the church”. Rev. Templeton asked all the congregation to participate in the worship service, including the Federal troops. At the end of the service, when mourners were called, a number of soldiers from both sides came to the mourners bench and sat side by side. After the service both sides rode away in their different directions. As with a lot of old Civil War stories, it cannot be validated but it is an uplifting thought that a moment of spiritual peace was possible in the terrible conflict taking place outside. The little white church has been through periods of prosperity and decline but she is still standing tall and is well maintained so that more generations can appreciate the service that the little white church has given to this part of North Georgia for over 150 years.
In this view from the vestibule, it is apparent that this old meeting house has been well maintained over the years and is home to a prosperous and thriving congregation. Though the interior has been altered and refurbished several times during its long life, and a restoration of the interior and exterior completed in 2002, the original design, shape, simplicity and character within the sanctuary remains today. Yes there are rugs, ceiling fans, chandeliers, 20th century stained glass windows and the pews are not original… but the interior space with its large windows, stately columns and handsome ceiling brackets creates an air of authenticity within.
Though modern in manufacture, the pews with their walnut finished rails and end caps are reminiscent of a style very common in the 19th century . The all-white interior walls and ceilings create a bright and inviting atmosphere within.
This view from the gallery emphasizes the cozy and intimate nature of Liberty’s interior. The colorful ambient light from the windowpanes blends and reflects off of the all-white painted surfaces creating a warm glow throughout the sanctuary.
Originally, Liberty was a single, center gable rectangular box with, probably, two entry doors. At some time a front vestibule and entry was added. In this view from the pulpit, we see a gallery above the present, cased opening, which is flanked by two columns that support the gallery above. The gallery stairway can be seen in the back right corner. Many of the older/original church buildings we find in Georgia were modified in this way to provide additional covered space just inside the church. Such modifications reflected the growth of the church congregation and its increasing prosperity.
Church prosperity is indicated by the presence of plaques at the pew ends. These were usually earned through donations and/or memorial gifts for church upkeep and maintenance. We also see again, in this closeup, the lovely, mixed pastel colored windowpanes in use throughout the sanctuary. These windows often were family memorials as well. Liberty Cumberland Presbyterian’s congregations have for over 150 years provided outstanding support and stewardship for their beloved sanctuary.
This Plaque recognizes the history and significant events at the church since its founding. It seems to us that one of the events/accomplishments noted is particularly characteristic of Liberty’s congregation throughout the years: “1st Painted Church in Northwest Georgia” From the beginning, Liberty’s congregation has shown great pride in and taken wonderful care of its sanctuary. It will, we believe, continue to do so in the decades to come.
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Our denomination is Cumberland Presbyterian, which grew out of the Presbyterian Church in the USA. Other Presbyterian denominations include our sister denomination, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church in America, and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and others. We are so grateful to Sonny, George, and Tom and his wife, for this beautiful article and breathtaking photography. God bless you all and thank you so very much. More information about the Cumberland Presbyterian Church can be found at http://www.cumberland.org.
Rev. Hollingshed, thank you for the special message and information. We appreciate your continued support!